Peter Rhodes on criminalising parents, inventing a new word and what took the SBS so long?

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

What took so long?
What took so long?

Some reporters were confused over how to describe the men involved in this week's tanker incident in the Channel. Were they pirates, stowaways, hijackers? The BBC conferred instant victim status by referring to them as “Nigerians seeking asylum.” Strangely, none of the early reports touched on the interesting fact that their voyage from Nigeria took three weeks – so what did they eat and drink?

“The operation was textbook,” declared Sky News as details of the Special Boat Service attack were revealed. Only if the textbook in question has a chapter on 16 hefty SBS guys with guns and grenades taking on seven unarmed blokes. The SBS operation was all over in nine minutes. I bet their arch-rivals in the SAS are already asking why it took so long.

A year ago, as they passed a law forbidding the smacking of children, members of the Scottish Parliament were assured: “Our intention is not to criminalise parents.” The law comes into force next week and the SNP Scottish Government has just advised people to dial 999 “if you see someone physically punishing their child.” In other words, mums and dads will be criminalised.

The guidance offers an example of a child dashing in to a busy road. Under the new Scottish law, you can pull your child to safety but if you then smack the child, you're a criminal. But how many loving parents, in such a terrifying and life-threatening moment, would not reinforce the road-safety message with a quick smack? I suspect there are only two sorts of parents: smackers and liars.

What are the alternatives to smacking? Campaigners offer all sorts of tips including sending the child to its room, removing a favourite toy or walking away. How strange that adults who condemn what they always refer to as “beating” or “hitting” children seem happy to imprison them, abandon them or steal from them. I bet most kids would prefer the smack, thanks.

I came across a 1966 magazine introducing an invention called the credit card with the headline: “Farewell to the bank note?” Not exactly. Despite many forecasts of their imminent demise, bank notes survived another 54 years. History may record that they were finally killed off not only by plastic but by something called a pandemic.

After much binge-viewing we reached the final 80th episode of Schitt's Creek (Netflix). And what a clever, happy, life-affirming trip it has been. The Canadian production may change the way you think about money, family, friends, snobbery and gay relationships. It will certainly brighten a few nights during these grim lockdown times. Another epic for the pandemic, a pandepic.

In this age of Google and Wikipedia it is almost impossible to invent a new word. They all seem to have been taken. But I can't find “pandepic” as I use it and I am therefore claiming it as my own. Wonder if I'll get a blue plaque.

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